A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

PEN America: We are celebrating World Press Freedom Day around country because threats are real

From Cincinnati to Austin and Atlanta to Denver, PEN America is collaborating with partners nationwide in activities to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

Building on PEN Across America and Press Freedom Incentive Fund initiatives, PEN is galvanizing a community of press freedom advocates to stand up in support of independent journalism, defend journalists who speak truth to power, and encourage political leaders to prioritize safeguarding a free press.

Since 1993, the United Nations has recognized World Press Freedom Day annually around the globe on May 3. It has been a day dedicated to affirming the fundamental principles of press freedom, celebrating the positive impact journalism has on communities, honoring journalists for the work they do to hold the powerful accountable, and standing up on behalf of those who have been silenced, imprisoned, or killed.

Now, when threats against the press in the United States are at an unprecedented high, dozens of cities are working with PEN America to kick off their first annual celebration of World Press Freedom Day because:

Journalists are under threat.

We are seeing journalists assaulted verbally and physically while reporting, put under surveillance, and even detained at the U.S.–Mexico border. Press credentials have been revoked or denied, and at least one seemingly unconstitutional bill has been introduced to stifle access to news media.

Last year, the United States was among the top five deadliest countries for journalists, behind Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, and Yemen and was just added to the list of the most dangerous countries for journalists for the very first time. There were 35 reported incidents in which a total of 42 members of the press were physically attacked and these writers are often also subjected to intense online hate and harassment, which disproportionately affects female journalists and journalists of color.

Millions of us are losing access to local news coverage.

Over the last 15 years, the number of reporters, editors, photographers, and other U.S. newsroom employees fell by 45 percent—and we anticipate more newsrooms will follow suit as news business models continue to be in flux. There are now some 1,500 “ghost papers,” where skeleton staffs are offering little to no local news coverage. And, in some places, access to news has dried up entirely: More than 1,400 communities across the country lost a newspaper over this period.

We can’t take a free press for granted.

The United States does not place among the top 30 countries ranked for press freedom in two separate rankings.

For a country where a free press is protected in our very First Amendment, we have work to do.

The World Press Freedom event in this region will be held in Cincinnati from 6-8 p.m. at Dpict, 2868 Colerain Ave. Light refreshments provided. It’s free but advanced registration is required. Meet with local journalists, hear about how they do their jobs and share feedback about your community.

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